The Salesian Archive in Bolton contains the first images we have of what we have come to refer to as the House Shields. These images come to us courtesy of Fr Patrick Sherlock SDB, Provincial Secretary. These are in the form of four cards each with one of the Heraldic Shields of the four saints after whom the Houses at Shrigley were named. We do not know when the Salesians commissioned these images, though it was before John Ogilvie and Oliver Plunket were canonised.
The cards bear the stamp of the Irish College of Heraldry. The reverse of each card carries a description of the features of each coat of arms. As these are quite difficult to read, I give only one as an example – the description of the Plunket Coat of Arms. “Arms:- Sable, a band argent, in the sinister point a tower triple-towered of the last, a crescent gules for difference. Crest:- A horse passant argent.” The Plunket name sometimes appears as Plunkett. On the web, the Catholic Encyclopedia uses both.
The House Shields as we know them were adaptated from these four coats of arms, as their crests would obviously be too difficult to incorporate. I believe Fr Albert Carette was the one who created the shields as we have them. When the Shrigley Hall Hotel agreed to take the shields on loan, I approached Fr Albert with a view to smartening up the four shields as they all bear many years’ wear and tear. Fr Albert was prepared to do it, but the hotel would not hear of it, preferring them to bear signs of age to give them authenticity. In retrospect, this was a good decision. Now that they are on display at Shrigley with the Lomas Shield, which could never have been given a coat of paint to smarten it up, they add much to the first impressions of those who enter the hotel entrance hall for the first time.
Each shield represented one of the Houses that College students were assigned to on arrival. The four Houses were called Fisher, More, Ogilvie and Plunkett, named after four saints and martyrs, two English, one Scottish and one Irish, reflecting the origins of most students. Martyrs were considered appropriate patrons for those aspiring to work as missionaries.
St John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop of Rochester, was executed on Tower Hill on 22nd June 1535 for failing to acknowledge King Henry VIII’s supremacy over the Church.
St Thomas More (1478-1535) was a lawyer, author and Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII. He opposed the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. More was executed on 6th July 1535, saying he was “the King’s good servant but God’s first”.
Fisher & More share a Feastday, 22nd June in the Catholic calendar, 6th July in the Anglican.
St John Ogilvie (1579-1615) was born a Calvinist but died a Jesuit at Glasgow Cross, hanged at the age of 36 on 1st July 1615. Educated on the Continent, he became a Catholic at the age of 17. On his return to Scotland he worked for only one year before being betrayed for saying Mass. Scotland’s only post-Reformation Catholic Saint, his Feastday is on 10th March.
St Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681) was born in Co. Meath, Ireland and, aged 22, studied for the priesthood in Rome. Because of religious persecution he was unable to return home until 1669 when he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland. Hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 1st July 1681, he was the last Catholic martyr to die in England. His Feastday is on 11th July.
Each year competition for the ‘Cock House’ involved three sporting activities: soccer from September to Easter, cricket thereafter and the Annual Sports Day in July. On the academic side, marks for conduct (plus and minus), awarded throughout the year, were also included in the contest. The Lomas Shield was presented annually to the winning House.
The Shield was given to the College to mark the Holy Year of 1950 by Edward Lomas JP, who was a leading local businessman in the Macclesfield silk-throwing industry. A prominent Catholic layman, he engaged in extensive public service and was a major benefactor of the College. Among the chief guests at the opening of Philip Tilden’s new church at Shrigley in July 1938, his general benevolence to Catholic institutions was rewarded by papal appointment as a Knight of the Order of St Gregory, and subsequently as Knight Commander. It was he who bequeathed Ingersley Hall in Bollington to the Salesians, where they still run a retreat centre at Savio House. For several years after his death in 1952, his daughter presided at annual College Prize Days at Shrigley.
The shield bears the College’s Salesian motto “Da mihi animas, caetera tolle,” usually translated as “Give me souls, take all else away”. This reflects St John Bosco’s priority. Though he provided for the bodily needs of the street-children that he cared for, their spiritual welfare was of more importance to him, as it is to his Salesian followers.